During the proceedings against Sanjay Bhandari, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of the UK, which has successfully argued India’s cases, stated that the businessman’s conduct amounts to “fraud by false representation” in British jurisdiction

A UK court has ordered the extradition of fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari to India, the third high-profile extradition case India has won in the UK, after Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi.

While ordering Bhandari’s extradition and sending the reference to the UK home secretary, the district judge Michael Snow at the Westminster’s Magistrates’ Court in London, said : “As I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant’s Convention rights, I must send this case to the Secretary of State [Suella Braverman] for a decision as to whether the defendant is to be extradited”.

“However, I only do so on the basis of the assurances that have been provided by the (Indian) government,” the judge said. The Indian government assured the court that Bhandari will be held in a separate cell at Tihar Jail in New Delhi with adequate access to health care while he faces trial in India.

To be sure, Bhandari has the option to challenge the magistrate court’s decision in the UK high court.

“It’s a big development. Sanjay Bhandari is undoubtedly one of the most wanted fugitives who are wanted for multiple violations. Indian agencies have provided robust evidence related to the financial irregularities, which has been appreciated by the UK courts in back-to-back extraditions of Mallya, Modi and now Bhandari,” said an officer, who didn’t want to be named.

Mallya’s extradition was cleared by the UK high court in April 2020 but has since been held up because he has applied for asylum. A Westminster court ordered Modi’s extradition in February 2021, which he has challenged in the UK high court.

During the proceedings against Bhandari, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of the UK, which has successfully argued India’s cases, stated that the businessman’s conduct amounts to “fraud by false representation” in British jurisdiction. The charges were described by Bhandari’s legal team as “political witch-hunt” and “baseless”.

Bhandari, 60, is under investigation by multiple agencies , including the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Income Tax department and Delhi Police for money laundering , violation of the foreign exchange act , the black money act, and the official secrets act for having access to sensitive defence documents.

He fled to the UK via Nepal in December 2016.

The Indian government sent two extradition requests against the fugitive businessman which were certified by the then UK home secretary Priti Patel in June 2020, after which British authorities arrested him on July 15, 2020. He is out on bail.

The arms dealer is also under investigation since 2019 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of corruption in a ₹2,985-crore deal in 2009 to procure 75 PC-7 trainer aircraft from Swiss plane maker Pilatus Aircraft.

He is also under the scanner for allegedly laundering money related to property transactions allegedly linked to former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra in London, in which a NRI businessman C C Thampi was arrested by the ED in January 2020.

Vadra, who was questioned by the ED in May 2019, has repeatedly denied all the allegations against him. He told HT in January 2020: “It’s a free for all in this country…truth has no place. Witch-hunt continues for almost a decade. Another decade more and we will be referring to what happened in 2010, 2011, 2012 and on and on.”

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had claimed in its charge sheet filed against Bhandari on June 1, 2020 that the fugitive, after fleeing to the UK in 2016, met certain people in London and tried to alienate (or transfer ownership of) his foreign assets and companies by creating backdated documents in the name of a trust based in the UAE.